Josh Smith led the Hawks with a game-high 22 points and 18 rebounds in Atlanta’s Game 1 victory over the Boston Celtics 83-74 on Sunday.
Jeff Teague (15), Kirk Hinrich (12) and Joe Johnson (11) were also in double-figures for the Hawks.
Rajon Rondo (20 points / 11 assists) and Kevin Garnett (20 points / 12 rebounds) posted double-double’s in the contest as fellow starters Paul Pierce (12) and Avery Bradley (10) also reached double-figures.
One of the biggest factors in Atlanta’s win over the Celtics was the play of their reserves as they outscored Boston’s bench 17-4 in the game and kept the team afloat while the starters got some important rest.
Player Grades: Each player is given a grade on an A+ through F scale based upon their game performance.
Rajon Rondo: A-
Surprisingly Rondo was the only consistent scoring threat for Boston in the game. He recorded a double-double with 20 points and 11 assists while adding four rebounds and four steals before getting ejected from the game after making contact with an official seconds after he was assessed a technical foul for arguing with the ref over a loose ball foul that involved Josh Smith and Brandon Bass. Rondo took 18 shots in the game and made 10 of them. The incident with the official will be reviewed by the NBA and there is a chance Rondo could face some type of suspension.
Avery Bradley: D
Bradley isn’t known as a scorer, he showed that in the this game by missing 8-of-12 shots from the field overall. He had four fouls in the game and let his counterpart Kirk Hinrich score in double-figures.
Paul Pierece: C
Pierce was physical in game and tried to set the tone after making a couple of tough turn-around’s but struggled for most of the night thanks to Joe Johnson’s stiffling defense as he missed 14-of-19 shots overall including all six of his 3-point attempts. He only scored 12 points in 42 total minutes of action.
Brandon Bass: D
Arguably the most important player for Boston coming into the series, Bass has a quiet night going three-of-seven from the field for eight points. With the Hawks having limited big men depth, Bass could have provided a real miss-match for the Celtics but couldn’t be the difference maker his team needed.
Kevin Garnett: B
KG was terrible in the first half missing 8-of-9 shots and seemed to be more winded than usual every time Doc Rivers subbed him out the game. Smith was working him on both ends of the floor and Jason Collins played excellent interior defense on future hall-of-famer but Garnett picked it up in the second half and went 7-of-10 from the field to finish with 20 points in the game, matching Rondo for the team-high. KG also pulled down 12 rebounds in the contest.
Jeff Teague: B+
Teague played a good all-around game as usual and dropped 15 points while adding six boards and three assists with a steal in the contest in 33 minutes of game time. Boston went to Rondo twice in the post when the game started and Teague did a nice job of defending.
Teague caught a kick out pass from Smith behind the arc, faked a pass to the corner that made Pietrus bite, then loaded and knocked down a clutch 3-pointer to give the Hawks a 76-68 lead with 3mins remaining.
On the next possession, Teague penetrated the middle and hit a crucial tear drop in the lane to put Atlanta up 78-70. He then sank two free-throws with 32 seconds remaining to wrap up the 83-74 win.
Kirk Hinrich: B
Hinirch was the reason why the Hawks jumped out to a commanding lead to start the game. He knocked down two 3-pointers in the first three minutes to help spark a 13-4 outburst and made four-of-six from downtown overall. Hinrich missed his only shots inside the arc but finished with 12 points and four rebounds in 32 minutes of action. He shot 50 percent from the field in the game and help limit his counterpart Avery Bradley to a miserable 4-of-12 shooting night.
Joe Johnson: C
Joe was dreadful from downtown missing all nine of his attempts in the game. He wasn’t that much better inside the arc as he finished 3-of-15 overall with half of his points coming from the charity-stripe. Johnson did however play great individual defense of Paul Pierce throughout the game limiting Boston’s biggest threat to a 5-of-19 shooting performance. He also dished out five assists in the game and corralled four rebounds.
Josh Smith: A-
J. Smoooooove stepped up!!! Hawk Nation knows Smith has to be the best player for Atlanta in order for us to make some real noise in the post-season. He’s having his best year thus far in his career averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds per game and outplayed those numbers by a long shot by posting a 22-point, 18-rebound double-double performance in Game 1 over the Celtics. He had 15 points and 11 boards at the half.
Smith was 8-of-20 overall but made clutch shots to end the Celtics’ runs and added to Atlanta’s momentum. He took a number of jumpers but did a great job of taking KG off the dribble and making him work until he was gagging for air on the Boston bench.
Jason Collins: A
Collins played great defense on KG the entire night and forced him into tough jump shots that wouldn’t fall and limited the Hall-of-Famer to just one-of-nine in the first half. He made a few shots in the paint and finished three-of-five overall for six points along with five rebounds in 32 minutes.
JC did a lot of things that don’t show up in the stat book like do a great job of boxing out, provide a defense interior, gave hard fouls and most importantly played huge, quality, minutes in crunch times.
SDS Plays of the Game:
Atlanta never trailed in the game but was on the brink of breaking down in the fourth quarter as their one-time 19-point lead evaporated to just a 78-74 advantage with under a minute remaining in the game. Boston was on 21-13 run in the final period when the most contreversial play of the game occurred — a foul called on Brandon Bass after he and Josh Smith both dove for a loose ball with the official ruling Bass in the wrong. Rondo got heated and said something the referee didn’t like so the ref assessed Rondo with a technical foul, Rondo didn’t agree with the technical and then made contact with the official by giving him a little chest bump in the back, as a result Rondo was ejected from the game.
Atlanta was then awarded three foul shots, one for the technical, the other two on the loose ball foul that initiated the big outburst. Joe Johnson made all three to put the Hawks up 81-74 and essentially sealed the victory for Atlanta.
SDS Player of the Game:
The key to Game 1’s victory was that great start. The staff here at SDS recently posted a 5-on-5 preview for the series and for the question “What’s the most important thing the Hawks need to do in order to win” .. I said closeout games.
Boston is experienced, we know this, we know they’re going to make a few runs in the game and make it tight coming down the stretch, but we can’t flinch!
Hawks did a great job of stopping the Celtic’s runs and holding their composure in crunch time.
The biggest knock on Atlanta, aside from injuries, has been inexperience. The Hawks were always known as the team with youth coming up through the ranks that couldn’t get past the second round but they can’t be seen as such any longer if they want to win the championship. Their core of Johnson, Smith, Williams and Horford have been together for over four years now — although a newly full-time starter — Teague is in his third year, this is now a veteran team.
They need to play with the mindset that they are an elite team — they certainly have elite talent.
Game 2: Tuesday, May 1 vs BOS – 7:30 (ET) — SPSO HD/NBA TV/98.9 FM
ROUND ONE SCHEDULE (** if necessary)
Friday, May 4 @ Bos – 7:30 (ET) — SPSO HD/ESPN2/98.9 FM
Sunday, May 6 @Bos – 7:00 (ET) — SPSO HD/TBD/98.9 FM
Tuesday, May 8 vs BOS – TBD ** — SPSO HD/TBD/98.9 FM
Thursday, May 10 @Bos – TBD ** — SPSO HD/TBD/98.9 FM
Saturday, May 12 vs BOS – TBD ** — SPSO HD/TNT/98.9 FM